Grocers are driving their US sales with niche marketing geared to an area's prevailing ethnic cultures. Helen Gregory reports America has always been a melting pot of colours and races ­ underlined by recent predictions that some cities in the US will soon have a majority of black or hispanic residents. African Americans, for example, already make up 12% of the US population. This change has raised concerns from educators and social scientists, but while sociologists tussle with their demographic charts, manufacturers have already spotted a niche market. Companies such as Kraft and Procter & Gamble are on the case, "speaking in a language black Americans and Hispanics can understand" and seeing sales rise as a result. Proctor & Gamble researches the socio-economic make-up of an area before working out a strategy which includes specially produced point-of-sale material and packaging, leaflet drops and roadshows. Sales project manager of multicultural marketing, Angela Knox, says: "We try to reach out to African American and Hispanic consumers in a way that's culturally relevant. We need to start properly marketing to them to establish our credibility before the population grows even more." The company's Reinvention of Fabric Care initiative for example, aims to teach consumers about washing, using African American images in point of sale material along with scratch and sniff points ­ used because research has shown scent is more important for the black population. This is then used in stores used by a high percentage of African Americans. "They like to take their time when they shop, so you need to create a specially nice environment for them," Knox says. P&G produces bi-lingual packaging as well as its Avanzando magazine which is printed in Spanish, specifically for the Hispanic population. The free publication, which is door-dropped to certain areas with large numbers of Hispanics, includes articles about P&G products, along with offers and promotions. The firm also holds health and beauty roadshows, which feature black celebrities. The company aims to educate women visitors about P&G products, while giving out samples and holding seminars. Tampon use, for example, is not prevalent among black women and P&G hopes to use lectures to dispel cultural myths and promote Tampax. "We're trying to show them that the products, such as Pantene shampoo, can work for black women and that they don't always need Afro products," adds Knox. Kraft, meanwhile, is hot on consumer research in a bid to understand the black market, which ethnic marketing group director Linda Crowder says is important for any company which wants to look for growth. "They are a huge part of our consumer base with purchasing power of $572bn." She says their studies found that African American women especially love to cook and experiment. They spend 30% more than whites on grocery shopping each week, spending 10% of their income on food compared with 8% by the general population. "As a result we've done a lot more BOGOFs, family packs and multi-packs and promote these in African American areas for bigger families," she says. Kraft also discovered that black families like to customise products to their own taste, so a recent Kraft magazine advert for its macaroni cheese product featured a black woman with the strapline "I like to add my own special touches". The manufacturer also asked African American chefs to come up with new recipes for the product which were run in black magazines and demonstrated in store. Another product ­ Kool Aid, a powdered drinking product which is added to water ­ was promoted in a TV advert using a black family talking about the ingredients they liked to add to the drink, such as fruit. "This was a successful campaign which led to increased purchases," says Crowder. Like P&G, Kraft also produces a magazine, Food and Family, specifically for black consumers. It is sent free to houses in areas with a high black population, and includes recipe suggestions for Kraft products. But it is not only manufacturers which are tailoring their offer ­ retailers are also getting in on the act. Victor Thomas, business development manager at the Stop & Shop supermarket chain, says some stores even send flowers to churches which then display the bouquet complete with the store's logo, or send runners round to black hairdressers with goody bags full of magazines for customers. "The next time those people think about shopping, they'll think about that store." {{FEAT. GENERAL }}